Sunday, April 2, 2017

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Director: Don Coscarelli

Notable Cast: Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Kevin Conners, Gloria Lynne Henry, Angus Scrimm, Bill Thornbury, Cindy Ambuehl, Brooks Gardner, John Davis Chandler

"Run, dammit! It's all over!"
"It's never over."

The Phantasm franchise is a strange one, entertainingly so, and by the time it reaches this third entry it’s already covered a lot of ground and tones. Horror, suspense, comedy, action, fantasy. You name it and this series covers it. The first two entries are outrageous in different ways so one expects that from the third entry, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, but while it hits all of the same tropes and style that fans come to expect from this series, it’s played even more loose and illogical than its predecessors and that can be a detriment. What that does allow Phantasm III to be is an outrageously fun movie, an aspect that always makes me want to come back to the series, and it has earned an increasingly solidified chapter as time goes on for this reason. When the first two entries of a series are as good as Phantasm one and two, it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed though. Keep that in mind and III is still a very enjoyable entry not nearly deserving of some of the hate it receives.

Things get tough on the road.
Reggie (Bannister) and Mike (Baldwin) are desperately trying to get away from the Tall Man (Scrimm) when they are driven off the road. From there they are both on a new journey, continuing to hunt the interdimensional being as he continually annihilates new towns. Picking up a few new faces on the road, Tim (Conners) and Rocky (Henry) they are unaware that the tables have turned and they may not be the hunters anymore.

After Phantasm II, the stakes on taking the film into some insane new territory were raised and Phantasm III means to take on that challenge. Unfortunately, the film has two things going against it in this regard. The budget is about half of what the last entry had, showing itself in the smaller scope of the film and it doesn’t quite have the foundations needed to really sell some of its loftier moments. Not that the last entry had spectacular character development or truly ambitious characters, but Phantasm III seems to love its gimmicks and runs with those no matter what the cost to the actual quality of film. This leaves us with some interesting characters, but hardly realistic ones that litter the landscape of this world. The film attempts at delivering some unique threads that expand the mythos, including delving further into the strange existence of the Tall Man’s deadly spheres and throwing in the fun idea that one sphere has decided to join the side of the good guys (with perhaps one of the stranger twists in the narrative that actually comes off as interesting), but as the characters degrade into caricatures it pulls away from some of the more intriguing depths that this series could have embraced. Particularly with its increasing focus on creating a spreading apocalyptic world.

For all of its silliness, narrative issues, and lacking character depth, Phantasm III is also a riot to watch for those reasons. Director Coscarelli may not care a lot about thematic continuity (or writing continuity) for these films, but he sure as hell knows how to make a strange and expansively entertaining film. He pelts the audience with unique visuals (considering the budget, this is impressive) and he doesn’t hold back from delivering great humorous horror special effects (again, considering the budget, this is even more impressive) and those carry a lot of what Phantasm III has to offer. Whether it’s the increased use of spheres as the minions with increasing abilities or the strange atmospheric fluctuations that make this film even harder to follow than its predecessors, this film packs in a lot of entertainment and fun. It’s not meant to be taken as serious even as the second film, so just keep that in mind when diving into it and there will be some love to have for it.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this latest Blu Ray release as part of the Phantasm Collection from Well Go USA is that this one comes with a great documentary about the film with interviews from a lot of the different cast and crew that are involved with it. While I’ve always had mixed feelings about the film itself, hearing about all of the love that these individuals have for it certainly makes me enjoy it more. The rest of the Blu Ray is packed with some fun features (although the deleted scene is a bit underwhelming) and those are listed below.

A sea of spheres.
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead might ultimately be a mixed film that is more focused on delivering a fun and silly experience than anything else, but it’s one that will remain on my queue to watch again and again as a strange and entertaining film. It’s not nearly as good as the first two, but it surely doesn’t deserve some of the flame that’s thrown at it for being a step down in quality. For fans of the series, it’s another chapter that has its own quirks and one that still works. 


  • It s Never Over: The Making of PHANTASM III featuring interviews with Don Coscarelli, A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, Gloria Lynn Henry, Stuntman Bob Ivy, director of photography Christopher Chomyn, composer/sound designer Christopher L. Stone, sphere designer/mechanical effects artist Kerry Prior, special makeup effects designer Dean Gates and Production Assistant Kristen Deem
  • Audio Commentary with Don Coscarelli and editor Norman Buckley
  • Balls of Steel: Bob Ivy s Stunt for the Ages - The Phantasm III Car Stunt
  • Behind the Scenes Compilation
  • Audio Commentary with Stars A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm
  • Behind-the-Scenes
  • Deleted Scene, Trailer, Radio Spot, Still Gallery
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • BD-50

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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